How Much Space Do You Really Need?
It’s been a trend for years, minimalism. Quite annoying really, having to hear about our “unhealthy” attachment to things and how “healthy” somebody is for getting rid of all of theirs. From the rise of the tiny house movement to TV shows hosts like Mari Kondo it seems everyone and everything is trying to get you to simplify your life via stuff (or a lack thereof). Some of this is overblown certainly, but the central tenants might be useful for people who are cost efficient, location flexible, and reliably independent. Freelancers, or a fair few of them, fall into these categories. Forget about the “what brings me joy” or the packing and unpacking exercises. If you really believe in all the minimalist adages, then those exercises may work fine, but all you need to properly “minimize” is to give yourself less room.
BENEFITS OF DOWNSIZING
If you don’t need to minimize, in that you can easily afford your large home and all your stuff, know that cost isn’t the only benefit to minimizing. Simply having fewer things makes moving easier and makes you think about your things a lot less. Notorious BIG really was right when he said “Mo Money Mo Problems.” It’s also important that before downsizing, you analyze the place that all your things hold in your life. If you have a large home but are always going out, what’s the point of all that space? If you have a fully stocked kitchen, but always order in, then something isn’t right. If you’ve got a home office but prefer to work somewhere else, you get the point. Is it the worst thing in the world to have more stuff than you need? Of course not, but it certainly can’t hurt to better align your material possessions with how you actually use them. Plus, your money will be spent better, and with more peace of mind, on things that make more sense for your life. This could be traveling, a new car, a better laptop, etc. You don’t need to get rid of all your stuff. You just need to trade it in for the right stuff.
The biggest deterrent to downsizing is “will this actually work? Will it actually make me feel better? Less stressed?” For many, the goal is to make enough money that they can have the best of both worlds: a big home and all the other stuff, without worry.
But just because you can afford something, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Even once you make a certain amount of money, you shouldn’t waste it on stuff you don’t really want. What’s the best way to figure out the stuff that’s actually important to you? Get rid of your shit and see what you miss.
WHAT SQ FOOTAGE GETS YOU WHAT
Once you’ve determined that you need far fewer things than you have (this will be most people) you can hopefully feel better about committing to a downsize. Let’s not jump to extremes though. Minimalism doesn’t mean living in a closet. It can help to visualize what a smaller living space might look or feel like before going about moving. Probably the best way to do this is to go to open houses. Short of that though, here are a few helpful comparisons. 200sqft is about the size of a one car garage. You’ll basically be living in a really large walk-in closet. This certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you have very few things, and only use your home for sleeping (most likely in a loft), this may fit nicely. 400sqft is double that (obviously), but it actually feels like a lot more than double. There are 400sqft apartments that have their own bedrooms. Small ones of course, but still. A 400sqft could have a full kitchen and even dining room. This is probably the smallest you could go while still having a “real” apartment. 800sqft is about the average size for a one bedroom apt in the US (and only 82ft smaller than the average US home in general). At this point, you aren’t really living small (if you live alone or with a partner only that is). When thinking about these spaces make sure to factor in closets, bathrooms, and kitchens. It’s all part of the square footage.
TINY LIVING HACKS
Depending on where in the US you live, you may already be pretty used to these apartment sizes, but if you truly can’t imagine yourself living in a space that small (or if you’re currently having trouble living in yours), there are literally tons of ways to lessen the strain and make your home more comfortable. A few include creating loft spaces over, well literally any area of your apartment, decorating with high bookshelves or any open storage system, and investing in low furniture to make the ceilings look bigger. If you’re ready to commit to a look or an aesthetic, you could paint a whole room white (furniture included), or build your own bespoke furniture or storage. These lists include a hell of a lot more tips and tricks. Perhaps the most valuable “hack” a tiny liver should know is one many forget. Leave the house!! You’re saving money on a smaller footprint so use it elsewhere. Work at a coffee shop, or invest in a co-working membership. Take more walks or drives. Start going to bars and restaurants again (it’s a post-COVID world). If you live in a city (and if you’re living this small then you better be) take advantage of all your city has to offer.
Your rent is usually your biggest expense. By bringing that down you’ll have a lot more disposable income and a lot more savings, all without sacrificing very much if you know what you need, and you know how to make the most out of your space.